Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The key to becoming a better chess player

Some improvement tips that worked for me
Finally on 14th May 2011 approx. 1 year after becoming a member of rated 1200 I achieved an ELO rating for online chess of 1602. An increase of 402 points in 1 year! To get there I had to prepare openings, study tactics and analyse my games.

Here are a few of the openings you might choose to adopt in your games.

GP Attack: When playing e4 decide on a system for confronting c5. An example might be the Grand Prix Attack because it is quite good for surprise value and avoids well trodden lines such as the Sveshnikov or the Dragon.

Scotch: When playing e4 decide on a system for confronting 1 .. e5 2. Nf3 Nc6. An example might be the Scotch game or even a sharper tactical line such as the Scotch Gambit or the Goring Gambit.

Alekhine’s Defence: When faced with 1.e4 decide on a system. For instance, learn a sharp line for Alekhine’s Defense. This can prove tricky for White to break down because there is a tendency for them to leap into the “chase” variation and become undermined by making one too many tempo losing pawn pushes.

Latvian: Be prepared for opening novelties such as the “Latvian” 1. e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5!

Reti/English: Be prepared to play a strategic battle against openings such as 1. g3 the “Reti”.
1. c4 the “English”.

Budapest/KID: Look for ways to confront 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 examples: 2. ...e5, Budapest
2. ...d6, Kings Indian Defence
2. ...g6, Pirc

Generally speaking if there is a gambit line in any of your chosen openings then it is necessary to learn it, whether that be for or against you. It is up to you how you approach this. Some players like to buy books and learn that way while others prefer to learn the hard way by playing hundreds of games and learning by repetition. Online discussions through email, blogs and forums can also be beneficial. It is simply a matter of what works best for you.

Bullet Chess
I was always advised not to play bullet (1 min) chess. I don’t agree entirely with this advice. I would say that there are occasions in Rapid-Play games when you may have only a minute left on your clock and your opponent might have considerably longer. You need to be able to ‘play out’ the remaining minute as quickly as possible to have any chance of victory. I have found that playing quickly in an ending can sometimes give you a significant psychological edge and throw your opponent off guard. I maintain that if you are only quick enough to find 3 good moves in the last minute, then unless it’s checkmate, what hope have you got of winning?!

Analyse your games
I have only recently started analysing the games I lose. In the past, this was always too much trouble, but now I realise it is absolutely paramount. If you don’t spend time looking at mistakes, then there is a very strong likelihood that you will repeat the same mistakes again and again. Use computers where necessary and always play the game back to yourself to find the move(s) where the error occurred.

I have to admit that my increase of 402 rating points in 1 year was mainly due to an awful lot of tactics study! I would say that 80% of my wins revolve around superior tactics. The remaining 20% is either due to advantage gained in the opening or superior endgame knowledge. I think, to make a similar gain of 402 ELO points in 1 year, you have to be VERY regimental about solving tactics on a daily basis for 3-4 month periods. This solving should amount to a minimum of 1 hour per day. In some cases I have spent 3 hours per day both on the train and in the cafe solving tactics problems – and this has been a very hard slog. Note: I have reviewed several tactics books on Amazon (see previous posts on this Blog).

I would say that the most inferior aspect of my game is that I am guilty of not conceiving of the correct plan, or indeed not having a plan at all. Hence I will be concentrating a lot more in future on strategy. The connection between tactics and strategy of course being that tactics are born out of good strategy!

So, having cracked this goal, I will now set the bar higher and aim for 1700 ELO. In summary, a year ago I was a weak player. I promised to myself that if I set myself a goal, I would do whatever means necessary to accomplish it! If I had to play more games, I would. If I had to study more tactics, I would. If I had to analyse my mistakes, I would etc. It’s been a long year of ‘trial and error’. During the rocky periods when my grade went down instead of up I felt like throwing in the towel, but now I’m a far, far more confident chess player than I was a year ago.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Scotch Game

I played a Scotch game recently which soon got out of the book! There are two points worth stressing here - 1) passed pawns have to be pushed and 2) there are always tactics lurking on the back rank!!

This was a fun game!

[Event "Live Chess"]
[Site "-"]
[Date "2011.05.14"]
[White "greg_b"]
[Black "A-Player"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "1602"]
[BlackElo "1650"]
[TimeControl "15|0"]
[Termination "greg_b won by checkmate"]

1.e4 e5
2.Nf3 Nc6
3.d4 exd4
4.Nxd4 Bc5
5.Be3 Qf6
6.c3 Nge7
7.Bc4 O-O
8.O-O Nxd4
9.Bxd4 Bxd4
10.cxd4 d5
11.e5 Qg6
12.Bd3 Qg5
13.Qf3 f6
14.Qg3 Qh6
15.Nc3 c6
16.Rfe1 Nf5
17.Bxf5 Bxf5
18.e6 Rfe8
19.e7 Qd2
20.Qc7 Qxb2
21.Rac1 Rac8
22.Qd6 Bg6
23.Nxd5 cxd5
24.Rxc8 Rxc8
25.Qd8+ Rxd8
26.exd8=Q+ Kf7